Bookstores in Paris Linger On

Blogathon June 25

Part 3

There are still so many book vendors in Paris despite Amazon France, which, by the way, is extremely efficient (I’ve ordered from them and books are not only delivered timely, but Amazon also gives you an introductory Prime membership for next day delivery–constantly tracking the package and sending email notices frequently when to expect delivery). As a sign of the times, though, Tea and Tattered Pages closed permanently (as did Village Voice Paris), which means its cozy little tearoom is also gone with the wind. Perhaps it will return some day with a wealthy benefactor, but then it probably wouldn’t be the same. Still, wandering through a live bookstore is always a treat of discovery, but this will be the last blog installment on the subject until I revisit the stores next year.

4th Arrondissement
The Red Wheelbarrow Bookstore
22, rue Saint-Paul
Phone: 01 48 04 75 08

Marked by its bright red welcoming facade in the Marais, The Red Wheelbarrow offers friendly service and serious literature as well as a variety of topics from classic and contemporary fiction to books on politics, current affairs, biographies, history, poetry, and French interest titles.

It’s also stocked with a variety of children’s books in English, and each year there is a writing contest for children and teachers. Check their website for the contest deadline, events, and readings by international writers and poets.

Monday 10 AM-6 PM
Tuesday Saturday 10 AM-7PM
Sunday 2 PM-6 PM

6th Arrondissement
Gilbert Jeune
10, place St-Michel
Phone: 01 43 25 91 19

In 1886, Gilbert Jeune was a bouquiniste on the Quai St-Michel. The original Parisian retail store, founded by his brother Joseph Gilbert, opened its doors in 1888 on Boulevard St-Michel. Today, it sells mostly French titles (about a third used) in multiple locations. It’s fun to linger over the outdoor book tables, but I’ve never found the staff to be particularly helpful. Once near closing time, I was looking for a specific title. One clerk sent me to their store across the way. When I got there, another clerk sent me back to the original store. My feeling was they were ready to close and didn’t want to bother helping me.

Hours: Monday – Saturday, 9:30 AM to 7:30 PM

Nouveau Quartier Latin
78, boulevard Saint-Michel,
Phone: 01 43 26 42 70

No used books but plenty of paperbacks. No website either.


13th Arrondissement
15 rue Boussingault
Phone: 01 55 28 80 14
Founded in 1977, primarily to promote Anglo-Saxon culture, this bookstore offers multiple language titles including films and books for children. In addition to English and French books, their selection includes those in Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese as well as other languages. Their website claims over 200 different languages.

Open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 AM – 7 PM

Bookstores in Paris, Plus Frills

BHV, from Five Hundred Buildings of Paris, photos by Jorg Brockmann and James Driscoll, text by Kathy Borrus

Blogathon June 24, 2015

Unlike yesterday’s blog (, which featured bookstores primarily selling English titles, the ones below either specialize in a particular subject such as architecture (Le Moniteur) or offer a different ambience with titles, new and used, in either French or English or a combination of both, as well as gifts.

2nd Arrondissement
37 Avenue de l’Opéra
Phone: 01 42 61 52 50

An independent American Bookstore dating back to 1853 in NYC, it opened a branch in Paris on rue de l’Opéra in 1895 where it operated until 2009 when its parent company, Borders, filed for bankruptcy and closed the store. But a year later, in 2010, Iranian businessman Farock Sharifi gave it new life (and financial backing). Under his guidance the store now sells gifts and stationery products as well as books. It’s bigger than it appears on first entry as it winds around to a more spacious interior. Although I once did a book signing here, I haven’t been back to see its expanded selection of gifts. Next trip!

An interesting historical side note: During WWII and German Occupation, Brentano’s began publishing French literature by French writers-in-exile, under the imprint Éditions Brentano’s.

Hours: Monday-Saturday 9:30AM-8:30 PM. (The website listing does not seem to work, so call to be sure it’s open.)


4th Arrondissement

52-64 rue de Rivoli
Phone: 09–77–40–14–00

Formally known as Bazar de l’Hotel de Ville, BHV informally dates back to 1856 when Xavier Ruel peddled a cart with tchotchkes at the same location. In 1904, it opened its doors as a department store and has always been a popular store with great prices where you can find anything. So, technically it’s not a bookstore at all, but it has quite a large selection of titles, DVDs, and it’s simply a fun store to visit (though the prices are not as Wal-Marty as they used to be), and a great place to find gifts and shop as the locals do. It sells just about everything: fashion, household goods (door knobs, paints, dishwasher, anyone?) to office and art supplies, linens, lingerie…you get the picture. It’s still a bazaar—BHV in the Marais.

Monday – Saturday: 9:30 AM – 8:00 PM
Wednesday: 9:30 AM – 9:00 PM

6th Arrondissement

Berkeley Books of Paris
8 Rue Casimir Delavigne
Phone: 01 46 34 85 73

This one was inadvertently left off my English only list. Former employees of the San Francisco Book Company opened this store in 2006. The shelves are stacked with secondhand American and British books. And they’ve got a deal for you: You can buy, sell, or exchange books here. Whatever you decide, you are sure to come upon a serendipitous discovery.

Browse and buy: Monday – Saturday 11AM-8 PM; Sunday 2 PM-7 PM.
Sell or Exchange: Monday 4 PM- 8PM; Tuesday – Saturday 11AM-4PM.

Le Moniteur Bookstore (Librairie Le Moniteur)
7 Place de l’Odéon
Phone: 01 44 41 15 75

A haven for architects, store designers, landscapers, urban planners and anyone who loves buildings and design. Located near Luxembourg Gardens and the Théâtre du Odeon, Le Moniteur stocks specialized books on architecture and related subjects with at least 30% English titles, including Five Hundred Buildings of Paris, which is now out in French as 500 Monuments de Paris.

Hours: Most days 11AM-7PM. Thursdays until 8PM. Closed Tuesdays.

2 rue de Buci
Phone: 01 40 51 79 22

The art of the upscale book. The Taschen Store in Paris is a retail branch of the Publisher by the same name. They produce quality books on art and popular culture including those on photography, artists, architecture, sex, fashion, as well as limited editions. Their books make great gifts.


Monday – Thursday 11 AM – 8 PM
Friday and Saturday 11 AM – Midnight
Sunday Noon – 7 PM

Bookstores–alive and well in Paris, plus ou moins.

Blogathon June 23

Part 1

While Amazon has definitely made inroads in France, the bouquinistes (secondhand booksellers) along the Seine still hawk their books to tourists and locals out for a stroll. There’s something comforting in browsing slowly through secondhand tomes you’d never uncover in an Amazon search. You wouldn’t even know you wanted the book until you thumbed through an edition. A treasure may await.

In addition to these booksellers by the Seine, it’s not uncommon to encounter piles of books stacked on tables of flea markets around Paris. Usually, you’ll unearth books in both French and English, but if you are searching just for English titles, there are still bookstores that specialize, especially on the Left Bank.

Though some English language bookstores have closed in recent years, I’m happy to report they are not all endangered. Not only do they offer books –old and new—but also often in-store events worth attending. Here’s a sampling you shouldn’t miss:

5th Arrondissement

Shakespeare and Company |
37, rue de la Bûcherie

The legendary Shakespeare and Company, yes, it’s still around. Its first incarnation was in 1919, founded by Sylvia Beach, an American Expat from New Jersey. She nurtured writers and is perhaps most famous for publishing James Joyce’s Ulysses, in 1922, when it was banned in the UK and the USA. Patronized by the literary set of the 1920s & 30s, it closed in 1940 under German Occupation.

In 1951, another American expat, George Whitman, opened a bookstore called Mistral, which he later changed to Shakespeare and Company, in honor of Beach, and also in a nod toward Beach, he named his daughter, Sylvia Beach Whitman. It is she who is carrying on the bookseller tradition in its current location in the 5th arrondissement.  The bookstore is a warren of rooms, upstairs and down, and when George was alive he often offered students and impoverished writers a bed to call their own in exchange for working in the store—an early writer-in-residence feature. (Full disclosure: When he found out I was a writer, I had dinner one evening there with the in-house inhabitants and, he offered me a bed. I declined.) The store offers readings, teas, and writer gatherings. Check their website for events.

Open everyday 10 AM-11 PM.


Abbey Bookstore
29, rue de la Parchminerie

Not to play favorites but I love the Abbey Bookstore, owned by Canadian Brian Spence. Stacked to the hilt and crammed into every corner, books and booklovers find each other here. And if they chance to miss each other, Brian will play matchmaker. Impossible to believe when you actually see the narrow store with its 35,000 titles, but he can put his hand on any book anywhere in the store, on any shelf or ledge.

Brian also brews a great cup of coffee, ready any time of the day. He stocks new and used books, and holds author signings. (Another disclosure: I had informal book signing here.) Brian also organizes weekend hikes outside of Paris. Stop in and ask him about them. You’ll find the bookstore on a short street once aptly named rue des Escrivains (writers’ street), where scribes worked,copying manuscripts. Its current name derives from a time when merchants hawked parchment paper here, a business that thrived from 1300s` until the late 1600s.

Open Monday-Saturday 10 AM-7 PM.


1st Arrondissement

224 rue de Rivoli

Supposedly the Granddaddy of English bookstores. In 1801, Giovanni Antonio Galignani—a descendant of the original Venetians Galignanis who began selling books in 1520—opened what the store claims is the oldest English selling bookstore in Paris, then located  on rue Vivienne. In 1856, he moved to the bookstore to its current location where direct descendants of the family still operate it.

Under the triple-arched entry, this elegant bookstore highlights art books—a grouping developed when the Germans prohibited the distribution of English titles during the WWII Occupation, but it also sells a vast stock of English editions covering fiction, non-fiction, children’s books, and guides among other titles. Its classy wood interior gives it a cache that accompanies its high prices. Don’t expect bargains, but it is a roomy store to browse around it.

Open Monday-Saturday 10 AM-7 PM.

WH Smith Bookstore
248 rue de Rivoli

Located in the long rue de la Rivoli, near la Place de la Concorde, this big box bookstore (a branch of the London chain) operates on two levels with fiction on the first level and non-fiction titles on the second. Along with the typical fare of English language titles, it offers a large selection of newspapers and magazines from the USA and the UK. It also stocks children’s books and British and American films on DVD. Check the website for author readings and other book-related events.

Open Monday-Saturday 9 AM-7 PM, Sundays and holidays 2:30 PM-7 PM.


6th Arrondissement
San Francisco Book Company
17 rue Monsieur le Prince

Though limited in its selection the category of books covers a multitude of subjects from art and architecture to collectibles and cookbooks, film and fashion, to literature, philosophy religion, science and more. They also buy books.

Open Monday to Saturday 11 AM- 9 PM, Sunday 2 PM-7:30 PM.